The only thing better than giving a child a wooden toy that can last for generations, is giving them a wooden toy that you made yourself. If you are new to woodworking, and the thought is rather intimidating, this is a wonderful project to start with. Simple sawing, sanding and drilling will produce this beautiful wooden stacker that can be painted, stained or left natural. You know you want to… so why not give this project a try!
Stackers have become an iconic symbol of babyhood, and with good reason; almost every baby owns one. The appeal of a stacker is twofold: they are fun to play with and they are educational. Through exploration of a stacker babies develop dexterity, agility and hand-eye coordination. Through experimentation they can advance any number of skills including sorting, sequencing, and size and color recognition. Not bad for one little toy. Plus, our Wooden Stacker can easily be used with many other toys including blocks.
SQUARE WOODEN STACKER
wood – 1″ x 8″ x 36” solid wood – we used ash
paint or stain – we used non-toxic, child safe soy paints
finish – we used an all-natural beeswax and jojoba oil finish
dowel rod – 7/8” x 6”
Tools and equipment:
Saw – hand saw, table saw or miter box
Electric Drill – with 7/8” and 1” drill bits – we used Forstner bits but you can also use standard twist bits
Sandpaper – medium, fine, extra fine – we used an electric sander and sanding sponges
IMPORTANT: Before beginning, put on your safety glasses. It is recommended to wear a face mask when sanding to prevent inhaling sawdust.
Select high quality wood without knots. It is best to use medium or hardwoods. Soft woods, such as pine, can dent and splinter. In general, the harder the wood, the harder it is to work with. If you are new to woodworking, you can select a soft wood like pine, but be aware it won’t hold up as well as harder woods. We used ash. It is a medium hard wood, reasonably priced and available at most stores that sell lumber.
You will be cutting 7 squares of wood in the following sizes: 6”, 5.5”, 5”, 4.5”, 4”, 3.5” and 3”. Mark each piece and cut them with a saw. If you don’t have a table saw or an electric miter box, they can be cut out using a hand saw or a manual miter box.
Mark the center of each square. To do these place a ruler on the face of each square from one diagonal corner to another. Make a light pencil marker near the center. Now do the same for the other two diagonal corners. Where the two lines intersect is the center.
Using a hand held electric drill or a drill press, drill a hole all the way through the center of the 5.5″, 5″, 4.5″, 4″, 3.5″ and 3″ squares using the 1” drill bit. DO NOT DRILL A HOLE IN THE 6″ SQUARE!
HINT: To stop the wood from splintering on the back when the drill pops through, place a scrap piece of wood behind your square. When you drill through the square, continue drilling until you start drilling through the scrap piece of wood.
For the 6” square block, switch to a 7/8” drill bit. (The size of the dowel rod) Drill a hole 5/8” deep in the center. IMPORTANT: Do not go all the way through.
Sand the blocks using an electric sander or a sandpaper block sponge. Smooth the sides, top and bottom of your square. Slightly round the edges and corners.
You will also need to sand the inner hole. You can do these by rolling a piece of sandpaper the size of the hole and sand. We like to use the sponged backed sandpaper for that.
For the dowel rod, sand one end rounding the corners slightly. Lightly sand the rod to remove any rough areas. Lightly sand the other end so the end is flat. This end will be glued into the base.
Dust off your pieces to make sure they are free of all sawdust.
Finishing Your Stacker
There are three different ways you can finish your stacker. The first is to leave it natural, and just apply a beeswax finish to the wood. You may choose to stain your stacker. You can do this all one color or you can use multiple colors of stain. Again, finish with a beeswax finish when the stain has thoroughly dried. Finally, you can paint your squares. The Little Lady in our lives loves bright colors, so we opted to use bright, rainbow colors. When painting you can use water colors, acrylics, milk paints or soy paints. Just make sure they are NON-TOXIC and CHILD SAFE.
Make sure all the dust has been removed from the wood and paint with desired colors. We used one coat of paint because we wanted to be able to make out the grain lines. Note: Do not paint inside the hole of the 6″ base.
When the paint on the squares has thoroughly dried, rub in the beeswax. If you regularly seal your wood with a beeswax finish, your wood for last a long, long time. Note: do not
Leave the dowel rod unpainted. Seal the dowel rod with the beeswax. Try not to get the finish in the hole of the base.
Place glue in the hole making sure to get some on the inside edges.
Place the dowel rod in the hole and allow it to dry.
Of course your stacker can be used to stack the squares, but the squares can be used as blocks or any other way a wee one deems fit. Enjoy!
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